Saturday, February 03, 2007

Korea's son of Kim lives high life

China has secretly harboured the eldest son of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il in Macau for three years, despite the US-led crackdown on North Korea's finances in the former Portuguese colony, local reports say.

Kim Jong-nam, the North Korean leader's eldest son and former heir apparent, has been living with his family in Macau, dividing his time between five-star hotels and a family villa, the South China Morning Post reported citing a six-week investigation. The newspaper said the younger Kim had made Macau his home, and was not just a frequent visitor as previously thought.

In contrast to the deprived conditions, and in some cases starvation, suffered by most North Korean citizens, Mr Kim spends much of his time wining, dining and gambling in Macau's growing number of casinos and slot machine parlours, and travels frequently to the mainland and abroad using passports from the Dominican Republic and Portugal, the paper said.

The rotund younger Kim hit the headlines in 2001 when he was deported from Japan after trying to enter with his wife and then four-year-old son on a fake passport, apparently to visit Tokyo Disneyland. The humiliation led his father Kim Jong-il to cancel a planned visit to China.

If confirmed, the news that China has been harbouring Kim Jong-il's son is likely to embarrass Beijing, which has been under intense international pressure to use its much vaunted influence to pull North Korea back into line after it tested its first nuclear device last October.

[Excerpt of an article by Mary-Anne Toy, The Age]

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